by Dina Kupfer

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — On Wednesday, the Superintendent of California Schools, Tony Thurmond, called on counseling groups to help fill mental health gaps in our students.

“We are intensifying our efforts to address the social, emotional and mental health needs of our students,” Thurmond said.

Thurmond addressed the mental health of students in California as it relates to distance learning from COVID-19 and current events across the country.

“We also know our students have experienced trauma related to the death of George Floyd and issues around police brutality, issues around race and racism, and issues around bias,” he said.

He announced the state is forming a coalition of counseling and mental health professionals who can support children as they prepare to go back in the fall.

Chief Wellness Officer at UC Davis Peter Yellowlees says parents should start having conversations with their kids now, rather than waiting until fall.

READ: Younger Voices At The Forefront Of Current Fight For Racial Justice

“Families and children are suffering from trauma which is really a toxic level of stress,” Yellowlees said.

He says having an open dialogue is key, but to be aware of your child’s developmental stage.

“The best way of helping is to really be preventive,” Yellowlees said.

To prepare your student for life back in the classroom in this COVID-19 era, Yellowlees recommends getting your child familiar with masks and social distancing now.

“I’ve actually suggested families practice this at home and they sit apart and put on masks and maybe somebody acts a teacher,” Yellowlees said.

And from COVID19 to racial injustice, Superintended Thurmond says it’s not only about preparing students, but also educators. The Department of Education is also launching a campaign addressing implicit bias to train 2,500 employees before school begins.

“We know that our children, they learn racism, and so that means that we cannot focus just exclusively on the education sector, we have to broaden to every sector because bias exists in every sector,” Thurmond said.

Counseling and mental health groups that want to help are asked to email mentalhealth@cde.ca.gov.

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